doctor with patient

How to Avoid Pneumonia While Using a CPAP Machine

Patients with sleep apnea should not compound their condition with respiratory distress such as through the development of pneumonia. While studies show evidence that people with sleep apnea are potentially more vulnerable to developing pneumonia, there are ways to decrease that risk for CPAP machine users.

Can a CPAP Machine Cause Pneumonia? 

In the most recent study of patients with sleep apnea published in CMAJ1 researchers found that more than 9% of the study group with sleep apnea developed pneumonia. Researchers speculate that many of the sleep apnea patients that developed pneumonia were likely more susceptible to aspiration of liquid and other contents (food and drink) from the gastrointestinal tracts to the larynx and lower respiratory tract into the lungs. 

Researchers also speculate that those using a CPAP machine with this susceptibility may have greater difficulty in coughing up mucus from the lungs, which increases the pulmonary aspiration.

Although further study is needed to make any definitive determinations on a greater risk of pneumonia for sleep apnea sufferers, we do know that a CPAP machine, hose, and mask that are not well maintained can lead to bronchitis, respiratory and sinus infections as well as pneumonia. 

The researchers from this latest study made note of the fact that CPAP equipment can be the breeding ground for bacterial contamination. This can lead to the emergence of pneumonia.

How to Avoid Pneumonia While Using a CPAP Machine

rinsing water chamber

The best way to avoid pneumonia while using your CPAP machine is to keep your equipment clean. You should also replace accessories as needed.

  1. Follow mask replacement protocols to avoid any mask from becoming a source for bacteria.
  2. Regularly clean all the parts of your CPAP machine. From hoses to masks to humidifier water chambers, it is best to follow manufacturer schedules for cleaning.  You can also use sanitizers for easier, faster cleaning. 
  3. Understand the different types of CPAP filters. Changing your filters as recommended by the manufacturer can help minimize harmful bacteria in your equipment. 

For millions of people with sleep apnea, the CPAP machine has provided life-changing therapy. It promotes positive short- and long-term health outcomes. It makes no sense to invite other negative and potentially deadly health effects by not keeping and using CPAP cleaning supplies to optimize the therapy and avoid conditions like pneumonia with a consistent cleaning protocol.


  1. CMJ Group Sleep apnea and risk of pneumonia: a nationwide population-based study. April, 2014. Accessed March 2020.

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes.